As ye judge those who fund thee, ye shall be judged

"If it were not for the intellectual snobs who pay — in solid cash — the tribute which philistinism owes to culture, the arts would perish with their starving practitioners. Let us thank heaven for hypocrisy."
Huxley, Aldous

Robin is always keen to remind us how status-seeking humans are, and the above quote is a gem in that regard. Laced through it are the claims that art is valuable, that patrons are vital to art, and yet that these patrons should be disdained – especially compared with the poor-but-high-status artist.

This can be expanded into a general test for detecting self-serving status-seeking. It isn’t enough to show that people are attracted to high status professions (people’s opinions of status varies, and they may have decided that certain professions are worthwhile to the world, and thus accorded them higher status). It isn’t even enough to note that people’s everyday behavior is status seeking – unless we can estimate the marginal difficulties in making a “worthwhile” profession more worthy, versus the marginal difficulties in increasing status.

However Huxley’s quote gives us a way of controlling these variables. If a profession is deemed worthwhile to the world, then those who enable it, or fund it, are equally worthwhile. If someone would accord their own work a high status but disdains patrons/funding bodies/stockholders, then their own status seeking is plain to see.

The converse is also true; one artist, at least, gets it:

"If a patron buys from an artist who needs money (needs money to buy tools, time, food), the patron then makes himself equal to the artist; he is building art into the world; he creates."
Pound, Ezra

GD Star Rating
Tagged as: ,
Trackback URL: